A mother in Singapore has passed on a very useful asset to her newborn son.
Celine Ng-Chan was infected by the coronavirus during the first trimester (or first third) of her pregnancy. Considering the state of the world—and the fact that the first trimester is a very fragile time of a pregnancy—that would be some very unwelcome news.
But not only did Celine get through the virus healthy and with her pregnancy intact, her son Aldrin received a useful gift in 2020. Protective Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies from his mom.
What do antibodies do?
Our immune system is basically the security team of our body. Its soldiers are antibodies—they identify trespasser germs (such as viruses and certain bacteria and fungus) and either refuses them entry or works hard to kick them out. The key to them working is for them to be able to recognize these trespassers. How do they know? Antigens.
Antigens are the molecules that identify a germ as an intruder—kind of like a name tag that reads "Hello. My name is I Don't Belong Here." And once an antigen walks in, our body begins producing antibodies specific to that virus to fight it off.
Born with immunity?
For COVID-19, IgG antibodies are the types of antibodies that indicate a recovery from the virus. If your body is making them, you're doing well!
In the case of Celine, her body would've worked to produce specific IgG antibodies soon after she got infected with the coronavirus. Not only was this what allowed her to get through the infection, she was able to pass this defence on to her unborn son. Remarkable!
So does this mean that Aldrin is immune to the coronavirus? For the time being, it seems so. Because the virus mutates—and because Aldrin is still very young and developing rapidly—the antibodies may only be there temporarily. But his case is very encouraging news. And early studies show that he is not alone—other mothers in similar situations are also passing antibodies on to their newborns.
To be clear, getting COVID while being pregnant is still something to avoid. It is a very risky and unpredictable disease that affects everyone differently. But if it does happen the chances appear high that the child will be born with a vital early defence against the pandemic.